Mud and the Masterpiece

February 1, 2013 — Leave A Comment

johnburkenewThis week I’m stoked to welcome my good friend John Burke to the blog. John is the lead pastor at Gateway Church in Austin, TX (yep, he’s also my pastor), and the author of Mud and the Masterpiece, which officially releases this week! I’m really excited about this book ~ in fact, I believe it’s one of the most important books for Christians to be written in decades. I hope leaders everywhere will read it. See the end of John’s post for info on how you can snag a copy, plus a whole bunch of other great stuff too!

When you look around you, do you or those you lead see many people wanting to know about your God because they see a glimpse of a greater love, more abundant life, and new kind of freedom in you and your Christian friends? Is God restoring what’s lost and damaged in this world through you? If not, we ought to ask ourselves a very provocative question:

“Why aren’t we more like the One we follow?”

I think churches and Christians today are in crisis and don’t even know it. My team and I conducted a nationwide survey with the Barna Group asking questions to see if Christians’ attitudes and actions align more with Jesus or the Pharisees ~ those notorious religious leaders whom Jesus repeatedly criticized. Shockingly, despite what I’m sure are good intentions, only 23% of Evangelicals (14% of all Christians) report they exhibit both the attitude and actions of Jesus through their lives!

My book, Mud and the Masterpiece, flows out of my own intensive study analyzing every encounter Jesus had with people—all people. What caused so many people who seemed far from God to flock to Jesus? And why did the religious leaders of his day create such a repelling force? What I discovered is that the way we see people matters more than we imagine.

Think about it this way: If you found a Rembrandt painting covered in mud, would you treat it like mud? Like it’s worthless? I bet you’d treat it like a priceless work of art in need of restoration. Yet Christians often struggle to treat muddied people like the immensely valuable, one-of-a-kind Masterpiece God created with his own hand.

As I studied the life and interactions of Jesus with very sin-stained people, it became evident that Jesus could see something worth dying for in all the people he encountered. He saw through the mud to the Masterpiece God wanted to restore. Jesus is very clear that he fully expects us to do the same things He did…to see a broken, lost world restored.

Over the last 15 years since we started Gateway Church, we’ve seen thousands of muddied people far from God find faith, follow Jesus, and even begin restoring and leading others to do the same. They are the true heroes of Mud and the Masterpiece, and the book is full of their stories. After seeing this happen in thousands of lives, I’m convinced that our problem is not that we need more evangelistic tools, methods, apologetic arguments, or missional strategies—in fact, none of these will be worth anything if we don’t first learn to see ourselves and others through the eyes of Jesus.

I’ve led Christian groups that served “those people” and shared our faith constantly with “those people”—yet we never saw “them” as “us” or invited them to become a part of us. That’s a good indication we are not engaging people with the attitude and actions of Jesus. They don’t want to be like us, maybe because we’re not much like Jesus.

I truly believe people intuitively sense how we feel about them, and that makes the biggest difference in their receptivity to Christ’s message. Do we equip Christians to really see people as God’s Masterpiece, to call it out from under the mud, and share with them God’s message of love and restoration, even for the muddiest human?

When we look at the world, do we really see what Jesus sees?

Mud and the Masterpiece is my attempt to help us do just that. Will you join me?

If you buy Mud and the Masterpiece during Launch Week, February 1-8, you also get the Audiobook (Feb 1 only), Action Guide, Small Group Discussion Guide, 1211 Band CD and more as a free download. Go to for details. All proceeds go to the Life Giving Life Project.

Michael Warden

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